Geof Bradfield - Yes, and Music for Nine Improvisors
  • 01 Prelude
  • 02 In Flux
  • 03 Chorale
  • 04 Impossible Charms
  • 05 Ostinato
  • 06 Anamneses
  • 07 Chaconne
  • 08 Forro Hermeto
  • 01 Prelude
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (04:32) [10.36 MB]
  • 02 In Flux
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (07:59) [18.27 MB]
  • 03 Chorale
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (03:20) [7.65 MB]
  • 04 Impossible Charms
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (07:47) [17.81 MB]
  • 05 Ostinato
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (01:36) [3.68 MB]
  • 06 Anamneses
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (14:01) [32.08 MB]
  • 07 Chaconne
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (02:45) [6.31 MB]
  • 08 Forro Hermeto
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (09:53) [22.64 MB]
Jazz Radio Contact: Elbio Barilari

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Geof Bradfield – Yes, and… Music for Nine Improvisors
Delmark DE 5027

Chicago saxophonist/composer Geof Bradfield’s Delmark Records debut brings together nine individual and vital artists from the Chicago and New York jazz scenes in Bradfield’s new multi-movement work Yes, and…Music for Nine Improvisers. Howard Reich wrote in the Chicago Tribune of the premier, “The music ranges from carefully scored passages for reeds and horns to more spontaneous interchanges among various subsets of players. In both scenarios, the music finds continuity in the tonal glow of the ensemble playing, the subtlety of instrumental voicing, and the harmonic sophistication of everything these musicians have to offer.”

1. Prelude (4:32)
2. In Flux (7:59)
3. Chorale (3:20)
4. Impossible Charms (7:47)
5. Ostinato (1:36)
6. Anamneses (14:01)
7. Chaconne (2:45)
8. Forro Hermeto (9:53)

All music composed by Geof Bradfield, Geocentric Music (BMI)

Geof Bradfield: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet Anna Webber: flute and bass flute, tenor saxophone
Greg Ward: alto saxophone
Russ Johnson: trumpet and flugelhorn
Marquis Hill: trumpet and flugelhorn
Joel Adams: trombone
Scott Hesse: electric and classical guitars
Clark Sommers: acoustic bass
Dana Hall: Drums and percussion

Produced by Geof Bradfield
Album Production and Supevision: Robert G. Koester
Recorded by Scott Steinman September 24 and 25, 2017 at Electrical Audio, Chicago
Mixed and mastered by Rich Breen at Dogmatic Sound, Los Angeles

In 1955, just a few blocks from the campus of the University of Chicago, two theater aficionados named David Shepherd and Paul Sills launched a storefront theater ensemble they named the Compass Players. Radical in its time and influential to this day, it was essentially a declaration of independence for actors and comedians everywhere.
The Compass offered some scripted works, but its main focus lay elsewhere, in the creation of improvisational theater: shorter pieces, often satirical and searingly funny. Improvised nightly by the actors, these skits inhabited a loosely predetermined framework – a set-up, in modern lingo, for an unwritten performance. These were not “routines” as we’ve come to know them, repeated verbatim at each performance; they had more in common with the commedia dell’arte of the 17th and 18th centuries than with Abbott & Costello’s oft-repeated “Who’s On First” routine of the 1930s and ’40s.
Mention the Compass Players to theater buffs and their eyes light up. But even those who have never heard the name will instantly recognize the group’s comedic progeny: its immediate successor Second City, with its star-studded lineup of alumni, and subsequent groups improvising sketch comedy (from the Groundlings of Los Angeles to Toronto’s Kids In The Hall); Saturday Night Live, which has drawn on those groups to shape the comedic arts in the U.S. for more than four decades; and perhaps even such iconic individuals as Shelley Berman and Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara, who helped revolutionize onstage comedy in the 1950s.
(Coincidentally – or not? – in 1956 the Compass Players hired pianist Sun Ra to accompany their risk-taking presentations; shortly after, his own bands started to feature more group improvisation than previously.)
These comedic pioneers and other filtered into the jazz universe long ago. “Jazz musicians like comedians,” says Geof Bradfield, the sterling Chicago saxophonist and world-class composer. It’s not only because they, along with the rest of us, could use a good laugh now and then. “It’s the basic idea of going up without anything but a microphone on the stage,” he explains. “Even standup comics, and even if they’re not improvising, there’s still got to be a flow. They may have done the same material a bunch of times before, but they’re improvising in a way – reacting to the room, changing the way they say something . . . putting the pieces together in a different way than they’ve done before.”
When you bring a truly improvisational comic into the mix – such as Lenny Bruce, or Mort Sahl, or the sketch-comedy geniuses that emerged from Compass – the comparison gets stronger. Those comedians stood out because of their instinctive wit, their gig-speed reflexes, their ability to so completely inhabit the moment that listeners could witness the process and the polished product simultaneously. And those same qualities spell the difference between a Sonny Rollins and the wedding-band leader down the block.
The Compass Players had a few aces up their sleeves, in the form of improv theater “games” invented during the Depression by Paul Sills’s mother, the director Viola Spolin. One such game – the one that lends its name to the title of this album – especially grabbed Bradfield’s attention as he began designing the music heard here. The dynamic of “Yes, and . . .” might seem obvious now, and in fact it’s become familiar advice for anyone trying to turn an argument into a discussion: rather than rejecting another person’s idea, try to foster a constructive process where one statement acts as a springboard to the next. The value this holds for a jazz performance is equally obvious.
But Bradfield also points to another facet of this concept. “You have to be responsible for the information you put out there,” he says, referring to each member of a truly improvising jazz ensemble. “You can’t lose confidence in it and change your mind. So ‘Yes, and . . .’ requires you to believe that what you improvise is building on whatever everyone else is doing – even if the response is ‘Yes, and here’s my contrasting response to that.’ I want to see people making some decisions. That’s what jazz is; that’s how my favorite players approach music. There’s this high level of interactivity that requires constant focus and attention and a depth of shared knowledge” – just as the Compass Players built their sketches from a common pool of references and a common commitment to working completely in the moment.
Spurred by the intersection of these two most prominent avenues of improvisation, Bradfield constructed this extended suite along the general lines of a Compass production, in which longer, more complex set pieces alternated with the unwritten skits. Accordingly, Yes, and . . . comprises several movements for the entire nonet – “In Flux,” “Impossible Charms,” “Anamneses,” and “Forro Hermeto” – and the interstitial trios that precede them. The longer, more structured pieces
benefit from Bradfield’s skills as an arranger with a marvelous ear for color and melody, but they still allow for the soloists to roam within their confines; the shorter pieces, each for a different trio, generally have less preliminary material, and thus provide the flexibility of the original Compass skits.
Bradfield used a couple other organizing principles for Yes, and . . . . The first, embraced by jazz composers since Duke Ellington, impelled him to write this music specifically for these musicians. “I wanted people who are not interchangeable,” he says. For example, “Anamneses” was specifically tailored to showcase the trumpet work of Russ Johnson – a brilliant inside/out player, who invests his avant-garde work with unabashed lyricism and vice versa – and the intimate, conspiratorial bass flute of Anna Webber, a former student of Bradfield’s. But he also wanted to ensure that the group’s other trumpeter, Marquis Hill, “got to do something he does better than a whole lot of people, which is swing”; turn to Hill’s solo on “Impossible Charms” for proof. Joel Adams – whose throaty tone undergirds most of the ensemble work – shines on that same tune, while “In Flux” clears space for the fluid guitar of Scott Hesse and the potent alto of Greg Ward. And on the subject of swinging hard, Bradfield couldn’t miss the chance to include a piece for the stand-alone trio he co-leads with longtime musical partners Clark Sommers and Dana Hall – hence “Prelude,” an all-out bash.
(The other organizing principle has to do with a series of idiosyncratic scales devised by the classical composer Olivier Messiaen; Bradfield used these to develop the melodic, harmonic, and even rhythmic ideas upon which he based his writing. In a way, these could be seen as somewhat analogous to Viola Spolin’s theater games, in that they provided a set of guidelines as he composed the music. But that’s a subject for another discussion entirely.)
Bradfield sees “Forro Hermeto,” the concluding movement, as a sort of “dance party, where a couple dancers at a time” – the soloists – head to the middle of the floor and strut their moves. Inspired by the unique folkloric jazz of the Brazilian genius Hermeto Pascoal, it inhabits a different milieu from the rest of this music. “But you have to allow the inspiration to ebb and flow,” he laughs; and in any case, where you end up doesn’t have to be where you began. Bradfield has used the compass points of another era and another art form to send him on an entirely new journey. And yes, it’s well worth the trip.


  • Members:
    Geof Bradfield, Dana Hall
  • Sounds Like:
    avant garde jazz
  • Influences:
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  • Profile Last Updated:
    08/14/23 23:36:43

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